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Cybersecurity in the 2020 Presidential Elections

By: Brian Zhou

· Domestic Policy

Last month, the United States allegedly launched secret cyberattacks against Iran in response to the drone strike on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities. The attacks, according to U.S. officials, were designed to hurt Iran’s ability to spread propaganda with minimal escalation of tensions. While most details of the operation remain as Pentagon secrets, it serves as another reminder of modern threats. 

The importance of cyberspace has become overly apparent, especially in recent years. Hacks on financial institutions and American corporations frequently make headlines. The 2016 presidential election, now infamous for foreign meddling, also thrust cybersecurity into its spotlight. Since then, the United States has amped up both offensive and defensive cyber operations and reformed the cyber apparatus within the government. In 2018, the United States Cyber Command became the eleventh full unified combatant command, attempting to consolidate American cybersecurity and offensive capabilities under one efficient organization. More recently, the current administration and Congress gave legal authority to military units to more actively hack foreign countries, with more operations being conducted in the first two years under Trump than in the entire Obama era. •
There is little data on the actual effectiveness of the policy of offense-oriented defense, which is vaguely referred to as “persistent engagement” by military officials. However, less than one year away from the 2020 election, concerns of another incident are once again surfacing. Government agencies have learned from their past mistakes and are already demonstrating new capabilities in ensuring security. Private sector firms have begun collaborating with the government in fielding the latest and most effective forms of cyber deterrence and protection. During the 2018 midterm elections, the military also attacked and temporarily took down the Russian group responsible for the 2016 misinformation campaign—a strategy likely to see action again in 2020.

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